Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Up and running

I feel a bit guilty. All the time. I think most of us do really, and if you live in the West and own a house and drive a car and eat food that's better travelled than yourself then I suppose you've every reason to. Funny cos my grandad would have died to enjoy the freedom and choice we enjoy today, nearly did in fact, several times, especially between 1939-45. But now we have it all the cost of the compromises that are made on our behalf so we can enjoy the stuff we like seem a bit high. So this blog charts my attempts to salve my conscience. 

I can't go & live in a commune. I have a family and a job & stuff to do. I can't be totally self-sufficient. I don't have time or space and I'd definitely mess it up and we'd all have to eat grass for 5 months until spuds started growing again. I recognise that everything we have is either mined or grown and I know that really the best most of us can do is compromise. Pedal to work when you can, grow your own as much as you can, buy local, don't fly etc.

Well 3 weeks ago I did a really great thing, which is why I'm blogging it. It all started a year ago when I began saving for a shed/workshop thing in the garden. You know, somewhere to do woodwork and soldering and boys stuff out of the way where I won't annoy anyone. Well last May I laid a slab base. In June we went to a gardening show in Llangollen and I bought a display shed that was on offer. Then I had a better idea about the workshop thing.

I'm a teacher and I spend most Sundays with my work spread out all over the kitchen table and with the kids and everything it takes me 6 hours to do what should take 2. So I thought, why not insulate it, tongue and groove it to make it less sheddy to be in and use it as a 'garden office'? I could spend 2 hours in there without interruption and then rejoin the family, all self-righteous having done my work. So I did. Then I contacted a couple of electricians to get some power to it so I could use a laptop & a printer and maybe a circular saw and stuff (not all at the same time of course). Turned out it was going to cost at least £500 all told. Looking into it I found that it wouldn't cost much more than that to get a little wind turbine up there and reap the windy goodness, so that's what I did.

 So 3 weeks ago I hoisted my Rutland Windcharger, trimmed the last bit of excess steel cable from the guy lines and switched on the little 12v light inside and it worked! Then it was deathly calm for a week. No wind at all. Not a breath.  Then the wind came. Last weekend we were having gusts of about 50-60 mph and I was looking out of the window about every 10 minutes to check it was still there. And it survived! It even fully charged the battery! Ever since I've been charging laptops, phones, batteries and even using my circular saw to cut some skirting and honestly, even though I know I've just spent about 600 quid so it could hardly be described as free it feels so good to use 'free' electricity. 

Don't get me wrong, this is not a big system. Not even 'micro generation'. You might call it 'nano generation'. But I intend to use it every week for working, and short of running an extension cable all the way up the garden I don't have an alternative up there. So this blog charts my experiences as a practical green person. Can I reduce my impact on the world's resources and still have my computer on?  Can I compost properly and feed my family our own grown lettuce next spring? Can my shed become the hub of my eco-effort? Can I inspire others to try the same thing? Do the little things really all add up? Will my new windmill blow down in the next big winds? Or will my battery run flat?

I've got some woodwork to do up there this week and then my plan is to write a blog from my shed! Imagine how smug I could feel then. If a little cold.